Sunday, March 11, 2018

Female Playwrights in the Age of Trump

Former SWP Writers-in-Residence Kristin Slaney,
Annette Storckman, and Elle Anhorn
We reached out to our past Spicy Witch Writers-In-Residence to discuss their thoughts on what it's like to be a female playwright in our current political climate. It came as no surprise to us that these talented women were extremely articulate and insightful regarding the complex mix of rage and hope that fuels their work. Below are their collected reflections, we hope you enjoy and invite you to continue the conversation with us this April 6-15th, when our 2018 Writer-In-Residence Iris Dauterman brings her perceptive voice to the Spicy Stage. 

Tickets are available here!

“Since the 2016 election I’ve gotten a lot angrier, which has for sure factored into my work. I have a tendency to write about the things that bother me, and (regrettably) it’s been a year full of those things. In terms of considering how theatre can effect change, I think theatre always has the ability to connect people on a human level. Lately I’ve also noticed theatres collecting money for causes other than themselves-- Youngblood, a playwriting group I’m a part of through EST, regularly hosts monthly short play events, and the tip jar from the bar is then donated to a particular cause that month. I’ve also encountered several theatres who collected donations for Puerto Rico hurricane relief, so I feel like there are also ways that theatres have been also considering how theatre can effect change aside from just the content onstage.”
- Kristin Slaney, SWP Writer-In-Residence 2017

“When Trump was elected, I heard a lot of artists, including artists I really respected and admired say, “Well, at least the art will be great.”
My blood still boils when I think about this. The death of children at the hands of nut-jobs who have no business owning an AR-15 is not worth that really good punk song, Debra. A desperate woman douching with bleach to try and induce a miscarriage because there are no abortion clinics within 300 miles of her is not worth that biting piece of satire, Brenda. A policeman who walks free after outright murdering a black teenager for no other reason than s/he was born black is not worth that stunning novel, Steve. It’s not. It’s not worth it. 
I understand why people said this. There’s this pervasive idea (which I do not subscribe to) that great art can only be made in the burdensome, hot kiln of adversity. People who said this think masterpieces will be made because artists will suffer. One does not need to suffer in order to create beauty, but, when we suffer we need beauty. As my Dad said to me the day after the election, “it’s so important, now more than ever, that we are artists. Because we are truth-tellers.”  As artists, we have a responsibility to other people to tell stories, and tell the truth the only way we know how. 
I always knew that the comedy in my plays was the most truthful thing about them. Comedy topples regimes. If you can laugh at the Dictator, you’ve taken his power away. I know that as long as we critique responsibly, and laugh loudly, we will ultimately make it through this. And now, producing art that gives relief has given me purpose. That’s my skill: I can make people smile. But even more specifically than bringing lightness into the world, I realize I have to make the angry ladies who self-identify as witches laugh. My backlash against this wanna-be-authoritarian was to realize that my stories are other women’s stories, and they have value. So, as long as people let me, I have a duty to tell them.” 
- Annette Storckman, SWP Writer-In-Residence 2016

‘I think that the silver lining to this current political climate – if there is, in fact, a silver lining to be found under this extremely dark, scary, life-ruining storm cloud – is that we the theatre-makers have been gifted a sense of urgency. Extreme urgency.
To be driven to create something good enough to show other people, there must be a ticking clock beside you as you write (at least for me). When it feels like you need to say something now rather than later, that’s when creating something new and honest feels easy.
            As a female; as an immigrant (albeit one from a very solid “backup country”); as a queer, and as an artist, I feel that with every headline and every attack, every insult and injury, our resolve is only strengthened. It is up to us to project a different message than the one being broadcast to the country right now by this administration. It has been inspiring at a time when inspiration is hard to come by to see my friends and fellow artists, my oh-so-talented peers from marginalized communities use this moment as a chance to define (or redefine) their identities and perspectives with more passion and specificity than they might have done before.
“No, actually, this is what’s important. This is my experience, and this is a story that deserves to be told – now, not later.
This is who I am.
This is what I’m worth.”’
-Elle Anhorn, SWP Writer-In-Residence 2015